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Seasons of change

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty quiet online this year, largely because there were so many changes in my life, and so many big emotions about those changes, that I didn’t really even know where to begin.  But with the changing of the year, it feels like a good time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months.

I spent the first half of my year with an amazing, challenging, intensely emotional group of students who made a lasting mark on my heart.  Over our time together, I grew both more comfortable as a teacher and at the same time more unsure of my ability to ever be the teacher I wanted to be, or to gain the emotional distance necessary to make year after year of teaching sustainable.  By June I never wanted to say goodbye to my students and couldn’t imagine spending another day with them – or starting all over again with a new group the following year.

All of those conflicting emotions – plus some expert advocacy by my mother – led to a very different second half of the year.  In May I interviewed with my father’s boss for a position at the federal contractor he’s worked for since 2002.  Two weeks after school ended, I started as a Senior Business Analyst at the company – and it’s been great.  My day to day interactions are with the two VPs, the COO, and my father, and the entire leadership team has been shockingly open to my (many, many) ideas, suggestions, and initiatives.  I’ve been able to define my scope of responsibilities as we go, taking on projects I find exciting and that make a difference to the company.  In early fall, I led a recruitment process that added two new people to our team, making me a supervisor after just four months on the job.

It’s pretty different from teaching.

The new job brought a lot of other new things, including a new car, new apartment, new work wardrobe, new furniture, new commute.  I love my little red Prius, with my first-ever vanity plates, and its crazy-good gas mileage makes my marathon commute a little easier to deal with.  (Literally, it’s a marathon – 26.2 miles door to door.)  After spending all of August with my very patient mom and dad, I moved into a gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in September and spent most of September and October furnishing and stocking it.  (It turns out that after 5+ years of downsizing apartments, I had no tables, no dishes, no glasses…)

And running through the entire year, of course, was trapeze.  It’s grown from an important hobby that provided me with a sense of community to a defining part of who I am and a huge part of my social life.  I spent March through October intensely focused on building my trampoline skills (until my coach ran off to join the circus), and since September my flying has moved forward in leaps and bounds.  In the last few months I’ve taken multiple tricks and skills out of safety lines, which means I’m taking more and more responsibility for what I do in the air.  And it’s exhilarating. I’ve always been a confident person, but as I’ve progressed in trapeze, I’ve gained a completely different sense of confidence, one that’s rooted both in a better knowledge of my body and what I can do with it, but also in constantly, and successfully, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.  When I’m feeling uncertain at work or in a new social situation, there’s something very powerful about remembering, hey, I can do a back 1.25 tuck, drop safely from 23 feet in the air, or grab a return bar and go all the way back to the board.  If I can do those things, surely the day-to-day challenges of life are manageable.

All in all, it’s been a very good year, and there’s a lot more to look forward to in the year to come.

Year-end thanks

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about how different my life is now than a year ago.  While some of the positive changes may have happened on their own, there are an incredible number of people who have helped change my life for the better this year.

Paul helped me kick off 2011.  At a point when I desperately needed someone to see me as more than a teacher – yet also needed someone to care about that part of me – he did both.  We didn’t last long, but our time together helped me find my balance again.

When Paul and I broke up, Melanie understood that my Facebook request for new activity ideas meant I was sad and she invited me to trapeze with her.  I didn’t go that night, but the invitation changed the course of my year.

Through the spring, summer, and fall, my coworkers have been there for me, unfailingly supportive and always willing to talk through classroom difficulties.  In the end, I returned for a second year because I couldn’t imagine telling them I was leaving.  And I’ve been happy with that choice.

At the trapeze school, Mandy has almost single-handedly provided the sense of belonging, significance and fun that I kept looking for in Unitarian churches and other activities but never really found.  She knows my flying better than I do and always knows exactly when to push and when to pull back.  I know that when I fly with her I don’t have to self-advocate – she’s got my back.

And there’s the rest of the staff and students at trapeze.  From my very first class they’ve welcomed me, almost literally, with open arms.  They listen to stories, give support and advice, and are completely fun to be around.  Becoming part of that community has been one of the most enjoyable developments of my post-college life.

And finally, there are my students.  It’s been wonderful to see H. blossom; it makes all of last year worth it.  This year’s class is full of such wonderful, vulnerable kids, and I am regularly humbled by the trust and love they give me, even on the days I don’t think I deserve it.  I know I’m not doing it all right, but they think I’m getting a whole lot of it right, and that’s definitely helping me sleep better.

While many of these people may come and go in my life, my family and close friends have been there every day of this year – and of the last.  They’ve dealt with my lows (and I know there were a lot), but I hope they’ve been able to share in my highs, too.

In the end, I feel like a very lucky girl, and am thankful for the happy, interesting year that’s gone by.

A day of firsts

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Waking up today I knew it would be a day of firsts: my first meeting to discuss a child’s IEP (individual education plan) was this morning and my first child study meeting (to discuss how to intervene with a child who’s struggling) was this afternoon.  What I didn’t know is that in between these meetings one of my students would provide an opportunity for another first: my first ride in an ambulance.

The student, AK, was last in line as we started to walk to music.  I was puzzled when I saw him run back into the classroom, but sent the class on, figuring he’d just forgotten something and would be right out.  He did come back out quickly, but he was crying and clearly panicky.  “I swallowed, I swallowed,” he kept repeating.  “You swallowed what,” I asked.  He finally gasped: “a quarter!”

“You swallowed a QUARTER?!”  I replied dumbly.

Luckily another teacher on my team heard me and said, “I’ve got your class, do what you need to do.”  So AK and I rushed down the hallway towards the clinic, with me asking him to keep talking while we walked so that I could make sure he could still breath.  About 3/4 of the way there he started throwing up, and another teacher immediately swooped in with a trash can to catch it.  We got to the clinic, explained what was wrong, and within about 10 seconds had the principal on the phone with 911, the assistant principal on the phone to the student’s mom, and a copy of his emergency care information ready for the EMTs.  The principal kept him distracted with long, crazy stories about other kids she’s known who swallowed coins and the clinic aide and I kept him cleaned up.  While I was at the hospital with him, one of the reading teachers picked my kids up from music, and another was ready to get them from lunch and dismiss them if I wasn’t back in time.

Despite some scary minutes of having the quarter stuck in his throat my student should be fine, and we left him at the ER in the capable hands of the doctors and his mother.

My takeaway from the day is an overwhelming appreciation for the other staff members at my school.  At every turn I had instantaneous, unquestioning help.  The only thing that mattered was taking care of my student, which included allowing me to be there to take care of him.  I know it might sound like the obvious or the right thing to do, and it is, but I’ve also worked in enough environments to know that this kind of matter of fact extension on behalf of another staff member or someone else’s kid isn’t always the norm.  I’m very grateful I ended up somewhere where it is.

Life chores follow up

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I just mailed in the prescription discussed in my October 23rd post.  Would never have happened unless my mom had 1) made the doctor appointment for me and 2) given me a stamp.  Thank god for moms.

Categories: Relationships Tags: , , ,

Hooray for mentors

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

As a first year teacher, state law requires that I have a mentor.  Happily, mine appears to be awesome.  Of the people on my team, her philosophy on classroom setup and management is closest to my own, and she’s done a great job this week of being there whenever I need her and disappearing when I don’t.  She seemed to realize quickly that I need solo processing time, so she usually presents me with options and then leaves me to think things through.  She’s also been a very gentle but effective advocate for me, quietly intervening in conversations with well-meaning colleagues who risk overwhelming me with advice.  She just slides a sentence into the conversation that explains how I’m approaching the topic (e.g., size of whole group area, number of tables) or say that I have a lot to take in now and can think about it later.  She’s also been amazing about gathering and prepping the supplies I need – book boxes, word study journals, homework folders magically appear in my room – though today they briefly disappeared while she laminated them for me.  From what I’ve seen so far, I have high hopes for our year together.

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Giving thanks

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I finished my last graduate school class yesterday. Looking back on my two years in the program, I realize I have a lot of people I need to thank for my experience. From the very beginning I have worked with remarkably talented, passionate professors. These women shared their love of their fields – reading, curriculum development, literature, writing, mathematics, instruction – and their commitment to good teaching. Their unabashed enthusiasm for research and teaching nurtured my own enthusiasm and helped me feel comfortable sharing it with others.  They focus on different areas of learning, but they all work towards the same goal – improving students’ lives and helping them learn.

After my two years at the Curry School of Education, I know that I have a rich network of brilliant, caring professors to call on as I navigate the ups and downs of classroom life.  I think we often forget that there are people who dedicate their lives to teaching our country’s future teachers.  As I wrap up a life-changing two years and prepare to head into my own classroom, I think it’s a good time to say thank you to these master teachers – and their colleagues at education schools across the country – for everything they do.

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